Ballito-based physiotherapist Lianca Dookran recently participated in Come Dine with Me South Africa – and took home the grand prize for her night of food and entertainment.
Bubbly and positive, Lianca is a well-known physiotherapist in the Ballito community and has been running her own business for the last 11 years. With a thriving practice and upbeat demeanour, it’s hard to imagine that she hit rock bottom a few years ago when she invested in a second company and lost a huge amount of money. “I was suicidal and depressed,” she admits. “But I remember there was a point where I said to myself, I really want to live my life with unique and wonderful experiences.” After reading Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes, Lianca pulled herself out of despair, embraced a new philosophy and has been saying yes to every opportunity ever since. “Amazing things started happening to me once I started showing up for myself,” she says.
In an effort to live a full and varied life, Lianca decided to audition for the reality TV show Come Dine With Me South Africa Season 9, even though she doesn’t usually cook. “The last time I cooked was on the show. My husband is an amazing cook,” she laughs. She went through a four-step audition process, the last step of which was a video application. “I had just moved into my new house and didn’t even have a dining room table,” she says. “I’m all about being an authentic person so I sent a video with no makeup, and said this is me, raw and unfiltered. I think maybe they chose me because I was real.”
Lianca says the experience of being on the show was great, although it did have some really stressful moments. “We filmed on a very tight schedule and I still had a business to run,” she explains. “It was so tiring. I got home at midnight every night and then started filming the next morning again. But if I decide to do something, I give a hundred per cent.”
For her dinner party, Lianca served prawn panipuri for starters. “I wanted to serve good, authentic flavours. Panipuri is a cheap Indian street food, but I ‘boujeed’ it up a bit and served it with a butter chicken sauce in a shot glass.” For mains, she made a lamb and spinach dish with garlic naan, raita and rice, which she presented on a banana leaf. Dessert was a chai panna cotta, which she placed in a teacup and presented in a glass box with dry ice. “People were impressed with the food because it was different,” she says.
For entertainment, Lianca invited a local Bollywood dancer to teach her guests some moves. And staying true to her physiotherapy background, she made her dinner guests do stretches at the table. “The night was all about movement since I move people for a living!” she says. She learnt some valuable lessons from being on the show. “Never be afraid to be you,” she says. “Even in a room full of strangers, remember to take space and own it. Dare to dance with your fears.”
Taking part in the TV show is just one example of Lianca’s adventurous approach to life and she plans on continuing her journey of yes indefinitely. “I’m excited to see what happens next,” she says. “For the first time, I’m grateful that I experienced such a loss in my life. All this amazing stuff wouldn’t have happened to me if I hadn’t been through that.”
Come Dine With Me South Africa Season 9 aired on BBC Lifestyle (DStv channel 174) on Wednesday 15th November, 8pm.